Thursday, May 28, 2009

Let's Kick Some ICE!

God help me.

Today I watched Joel Schumaker's Batman & Robin (1997). It had been quite awhile since I'd deliberately watched a notoriously awful movie without the help of MST3K. I knew from various YouTube videos and word of mouth that I was in for one hell of a ride, but nothing could prepare me for the dumbfounding sight that I witnessed today. While the Billy Jack and Leprechaun movies could at least plead "No budget!", this would-be blockbuster has no such excuse. Other than the Devlin-Emmerich Godzilla reboot, this is without a doubt the worst big-budget Hollywood movie I've ever seen.

Do you really need to know the plot? Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a cold-hearted ex-scientist who goes on a crime spree in an attempt to cure his dying wife of a rare disorder. He's helped by Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), a pheremone-spewing femme fatale created through a lab accident, burning for revenge against humanity in general. These two spew off bad pun after bad pun like a barrel full of MadTV writers. Batman (George Clooney) and Robin (Chris O'Donnell) strap on their nipple-adorned Batsuits and attempt to stop these guys, only to find themselves at odds with each other as much as their superfoes. Oh, and Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Gough in child molestor mode) has a terminal illness, and his niece (Alicia Silverstone) shows up to help our heroes kick some ice (and, er, leaf).

One comes away from Batman & Robin completely and utterly dumbfounded. I've never been a fan of Batman or superheroes in general, so I'm merely judging it based on basic human instincts. That being said, What the fuck is going on here? Did Schumaker and Company seriously think they were making a good film? Certainly some degree of camp is intentional - you don't write a million puns about ice without hoping at least one of them is funny - but how can one take this film even remotely seriously? With a boatful of A-list stars giving earth-shatteringly bad performances, an unbelievably turgid screenplay that's the stuff Internet memes are made of, a plot that goes nowhere in a hurry, laughably drawn characters, horrendously shot action sequences (with amusingly primitive CGI), and the visual sense of a squirrel on angel dust, Batman & Robin is not only mind-bendingly bizarre and inexplicable, but absolutely worthless as entertainment - even the justly-mocked camp elements are treading on thin ice towards the end.

The film is certainly creative visually, full of giant nude statues, Batnipples (and lots of crotch and butt close-ups), lots of icey and plant-adorned sets, and backdrops and settings that seem to be aimed at a deliberately cartoonish atmosphere. The result is surreal, inasmuch as a fever dream is surreal. Ultimately, it's also about as pleasant as a bad bout of the flu, or eating raw meat out of the ice box. If nothing else, this film provides Exhibit A that creative is by no means a synonym for good. One misses the rote, uncreative banality of a Michael Bay extravaganza here; with its multifaceted plot, large cast of characters, and whacky, drug-induced visual sense, Batman & Robin is nothing if not ambitious - but oh how it fails.

The cast seems to be engaging in a contest to see who can give the worst performance - and believe me, the competition is very stiff. George Clooney is stiff, wooden, boring and completely unemotive as the third '90s incarnation of Batman, and Chris O'Donnell is an obnoxious, utterly punchable prick as Robin. Arnold Schwarzenegger stops the competition cold with a frosty performance, spitting off frost-bitten puns every second that brings in gails of laughter. Uma Thurman trades him punch for punch as Poison Ivy, chewing off an endless string of equally atrocious plant puns in the most insufferable Barbara Stanwyck/Katharine Hepburn impersonation ever. I was expecting this from Ahnuld but damn, I was under the impression that Uma could act. Alicia Silverstone is just unspeakably annoying as Batgirl, and John Glover's brief appearance as Thurman's psychotic research partner surely deserves comparison with the theater douchebag from Silent Night Deadly Night 2 as the most obnoxious one-scene character in film history. In a smaller role, Coolio gives a performance every bit impressive as his turn in Leprechaun in the Hood. Only Michael Gough as Alfred and Pat Hingle as Gordon give anything resembling decent performances.

So, yeah, I may not be The Dark Knight's biggest fan, but after this glacial abomination I've no freezing desire to see more. Unless my ice deceive me, this film is as pleasant as an icicle through the eye, and just as painful. At least there are some laughs to be had, but the idea of sitting through this iceberg again is a chilling prospect indeed. It gives me frostbite just thinking about it...

All right, enough of that. All I have to add is: Vat kilt da dinosaurs?*

Rating: Absolute Zero/10 - Dat Means It's Really Cold... Er, Bad

* - DEE ICE AGE!!!


sunday mornings said...

I came to your blog via the link in your imdb profile, after recognizing that the responses i kept reading (and thought were very well written) on a few imdb boards were all yours. You have a great blog and some wonderful analyses. (i'm almost embarrassed to leave a comment signed in as my blogger identity b/c all i gush about on mine are clothes and furniture.)

Falling Through Space said...

Lord how I agree with you. Never has Gotham city been so utterly nauseating and plastic and it's heroes and villains so two-dimensional and deserving of their own personal holocaust. You should see the Nostalgia Critic's review of this...